Comic Book Crossovers Do Battle at Fantasy

finalcrisis-deathofbatman02-smFantasy Magazine has published my latest column, “Battle of the Comic Book Mega-Crossovers: Final Crisis vs. Secret Invasion.”  It’s a fun look at the galaxy-spanning crossovers that Marvel and DC put out over the past year, including some nice visuals.

Check it out, and while you’re there, check out some of their other awesome stuff, including stories by Michael Greenhut and Peter Ball, which made Fantasy’s top five stories for 2008 as voted on by readers.

Amish-sploitation

Was just doing some late-night channel-surfing before going to bed, and I ran across an infomercial for the “Heatsurge Fireplace.”  Apparently, “the Amish painstakingly handcraft each Heatsurge fireplace,” which uses “fireless flame technology,” allowing you to set up a portable fireplace anywhere with an electrical outlet. This short YouTube clip will give you a taste, though it’s not quite as hilarious as the full infomercial:

I don’t know what to call this other than Amish-sploitation. On the full infomercial, there are even more references to the brilliant craftsmanship of the Amish, including a testimonial from one satisfied customer who bought it because he knows “the Amish make great products.”  The whole thing is hilarious on too many levels. 

But here is my favorite quote from the infomercial (sadly not in the Youtube clip) – and I wrote this down word for word, it was so perfect in its brilliance:

Order now while supplies last … Entire communities of Amish craftsmen are straining to keep up with the demand!

One More Interview Meme

The wondeful Chris Green and I agreed to trade interviews last week, and in the hecticness of life, this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and answer his thoughtful questions. So here it is… the final interview meme….

1. You have an idea for a story with all of the “Ben” hallmarks except for one. It is touching, funny in all the right places, the ends of the scenes hit you like a hammer, and it says something about the world around us that needs to be said. It has, however, no speculative element whatsoever. Do you write the story as you see it in your head, or find a spec element to tease out, and why?
I have to confess that your hypothetical question is not all that hypothetical.  I’ve occasionally written stories that adhere to present-day consensual reality, and I even went through a phase where that was most of what I wrote.   My process for writing non-spec fic is pretty similar to my process for writing spec-fic – when it’s going well, the voice and the narrative usually carry me along.  The nice thing about a speculative element, though, is that it often provides an easy way to shape the arc of the story and then draw it to a close. Sometimes I find it especially hard to bring the non-spec stories to a close in a way that feels satisfying. I’m finishing one up a non-spec story now, and I feel pretty good about it, but there’s a story within the story that features a zombie musical, so that might be cheating….

2. Is there magic in your world? Does a street shimmer like a pool and ask you to include it, or does a happy place seek contrast with one of ties and fiscal avalanche and make you make your own magic?
A bit of both. There’s definitely magic in my world, and on the good days I see and feel it all around me – even on Wall Street.  Other days, the grind of the New York subway is so oppressive it’s hard to even make my way to work in the morning.   Those days the world feels decidedly less magical. Yet subways keep showing up in my stories, so I guess I manage to find magic in that, too.  (Also I am probably drawn to the subway as an obvious symbol of the unconscious world, etc.)

3. What is the single most important writing lesson you learned at Clarion South? (No cheating and going the “family of writers” route. Writing lesson only, please.)
 
I had the rather embarassing lesson that I need to not allow my perfectionism to interfere with my work. Not just in the obvious, stop-editing-endlessly way, though there’s that, too.  I have real trouble allowing myself to fuck up in my life, and at Clarion I realized that same neurotic tendency spills over into my stories – I have trouble letting my characters fuck up, too.  Which makes for, like, incredibly bad fiction. Since then I’ve been working diligently to humiliate my characters as often as possible.

4. Did your trip to Australia show you another culture, or another side to the culture you already live amongst?
Oh, dear.  I think I’m going to channel my partner here (he’s an academic) and ask, “What is culture?”  I definitely had the sensations of being in a new place – the miscommunications, the moments of embarassment, the excitement of realizing something I hadn’t thought about before. But those moments were not nearly as frequent as in, say, Greece or China, or other non-English-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking places where I arrived with very little knowledge of the language, which is such a huge factor.  Honestly, the visit to Australia was a bit overshadowed by the imagined worlds my classmates took me to.  (Though, I do love Australia and can’t wait to go back!)

5. What would you like Ben Francisco’s legacy to be, in nine words or less?
He had quite an imagination. And he was hottt.

BSG is blowing my mind

OMG, these past few new episodes of Battlestar Galactica have been amazing.  I love the direction the series is taking in the final episodes.  One of the best things about the series has always been the moral ambiguity, and now they are taking that to the upteenth degree.  (Fold inserted here for the sake of spoiler etiquette)

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Equus

equus-dancerSaw Equus this weekend on Broadway and it what was well worth it.  Everybody’s talking about Daniel Radcliffe, because he’s the sensational, big (and somewhat unexpected) name that’s been getting the attention of the press and audience-goers.  He was very good – and he clearly has a range that goes well beyond Harry Potter – but in some ways he’s the least interesting thing about the show.  Richard Griffiths is the one who stole the show, IMO.  He’s one of those actors who could read the phone book and make it seem riveting.  He has some long monologues as the introspective psychiatrist who’s as sharp as a whip but full of regrets, and he makes them all work brilliantly, even when they fall a bit too heavily on the explicit side for me.

But actually the best part may have been the horses, which were portrayed by some amazing dancers, made up only with a horse-like headpiece and silver hoof-like shoes.  In the age when the Lion King and Spider-Man (yes, Spider-Man) are made int o Broadway musicals with Hollywood-like special effects, it was refreshing to see a show that let the audience’s imagination do some of the work.   The effects in The Lion King were amazing, but it was such an exact duplication of the animated movie that it felt more like a technical achievement than an artistic one. In Equus, the illusion of the horses is made real by the movements of the actors and the imaginations of the audience, which makes it feel much more magical.